Outdoor Fun: Horseback Riding, Kayaking, and Climbing
Summer camps may often have these activities, but even grown adults in Arizona can enjoy nature through these fun, outdoor pastimes! Here are our safety tips for riding a horse, paddling out in a kayak, or hitting the rock climbing course.
Horseback Riding Safety Tips
No matter what generation you grew up in, you were exposed to the wonder of riding a horse. Books like Black Beauty and films like Flicka have inspired millions to want to jump in the saddle and gallop off into the sunset. But riding a horse in real life is not like riding a horse in the movies. There’s no stunt double to take the hit if the horse bucks, and there’s certainly no landing pad to catch you when you fly towards the ground. That’s why it’s important to review the rules of safety before you hop onto the saddle for the first time, and every time after that:
- Always wear a hard shell helmet to protect your skull from serious impacts.
- Make sure your boots can come out of your stirrups easily, so you don’t get caught and dragged if you fall out of the saddle. If possible, use a saddle with release catches on the stirrups and know where they are located. Release catches help you avoid being dragged.
- Wear tight fitting clothing, including your boots, and non-skid gloves.
- Don’t do anything you’re not trained to do. Just because movies and books show supposedly ordinary individuals making a death-defying jump on a wild horse or riding through a stampede does not mean you can do the same.
- Always be aware of the horse’s mood and ensure that you are not standing in the path of the horse’s feet.
If you are involved in a horseback riding accident, chances are you are going to sustain injuries. Riders frequently experience sprains, strains, and bruises, followed by more serious injuries like broken bones, concussions, and dislocations. Most horseback riding accidents happen while riding, but many riders are also hurt while they are brushing or feeding their horse, or even cleaning out the stable. Be cautious! These are unpredictable animals, and they weigh much more than you!
Kayaking Safety Tips
Although kayaking is an activity that is restricted to bodies of water, it can be done in many different ways. You can take your kayak for a leisurely paddle through calm local waterways, or you can take your kayak out for a serious workout on whitewater rapids and even ocean excursions. People of almost any age can participate in this pastime. Even senior citizens can enjoy kayaking on a regular basis. Here are some ways you can stay safe and get the relaxation or exercise you’re after:
- Get the knowledge and experience you need to protect yourself. Learn how to judge the safety of your gear, the safety of the water, and how to notice changing conditions.
- Have the right clothing and equipment. To protect yourself from drowning and hypothermia, make sure you’re wearing the right clothing for conditions and a lifejacket appropriate for your weight.
- Learn proper technique. By design, kayaks are not the most stable watercraft. Learn how to remount a swamped kayak, and how to do the many righting techniques like the Eskimo roll, screw roll, C-to-C roll, etc.
- Never kayak alone. Kayaking alone can be extremely dangerous, especially in cooler waters.
- Know swimming safety rules. First, you must know how to swim. Also know that you should never swim in water that is less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you should not kayak when the water is this cold unless you have the proper clothing.
- Never rush your kayaking trip. Kayaking in the morning before work is a bad idea if you have limited time on your hands. The same is true if you have to make it home for dinner to keep your family from worrying. These types of distractions can make you rush, engage in unsafe behaviors, and put yourself in precarious positions.
Climbing Safety Tips
Everyone has goals; and for some, those goals include conquering nature by climbing every rock face Arizona has to offer. Rock climbing is an exciting sport that challenges you to become stronger and to move out of your comfort zone. It also provides excellent views of the landscape and all that Mother Nature and the great outdoors in this state have to offer. But rock climbing is a sport that should never be treated lightly. It is not only fulfilling—it’s also dangerous. If you make a wrong move or allow yourself to become distracted, the consequences could be serious—even deadly. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or you’re trying the sport out for the first time, it’s important to keep your safety in mind with every climb you do. Here are the most important safety tips rock climbers of all skill levels should follow:
- Use all the right tools for your climb. This includes a helmet, chalk bag or gloves, rope, climbing shoes, and harness.
- Don’t climb alone. When ascending, always use an experienced belayer in case you begin to fall.
- Climb well-marked and documented climbing routes. Just like hiking trails, many climbers before you have taken the same climb and discovered the best route. Unless you are a professional climber who is tasked with creating routes, you should avoid climbing unmarked areas.
- Do climbs that fit your skill level. Documented climbs are marked by level of difficulty. Pay attention to these markings. Trying to do a level five climb when you are a beginner could lead to injury or the need to be rescued.
- Always stretch before you climb. Nothing is worse for a climber than being 150 feet up a wall of rock and pulling a muscle. Proper conditioning on non-climbing days can help keep your muscles limber and strong. Warming up and stretching can help you through the toughest spots on your climb.
- Take a class. No matter what level of climber you are, a class can help you focus on your technique, your safety, and improving your overall climbing ability.
Gym Rock Climbing Safety Tips
If you don’t have any places to rock climb nearby, or want to try it in a supervised, controlled environment, you might want to check out a climbing gym. Climbing gyms are a little different than climbing on a natural surface. Here are some things you should keep in mind.
- Unlike in outdoor climbing, indoor holds have less wear, less grit, and provide less support. Many indoor climbers experience problems gripping holds, especially after they’ve been worn down over time. This can create a slipping hazard that can force your head, neck, back, and shoulders into the wall.
- Indoor climbs are more vertical. If you’re used to climbing a level three climb, you might only be able to match a level one climb in a gym. Indoor climbs do not always follow the natural ebbs and flows that characterize rock faces in an outdoor setting, so you may find yourself going straight up. This can create additional strain on your muscles.
- Climbing gyms usually don’t have cracks. This leaves only handholds, so you won’t be able to use techniques like arm jams, hand jams, finger jams; or use climbing equipment like spring-loaded camming devices or pitons.
No matter what activity you intend to do—riding, kayaking, or climbing—before you head out, remember to think safety first and not underestimate the dangers present in the great outdoors!